Savory, succulent, and seasoned…the Continental cuisine found along the barges cruising the Canal du Midi appeals to those with a special fondness for the “fruits de mer”. Focusing on regional delicacies such as fresh fish, oysters, and other seafood, the gourmet meals aboard the 10 guest barge Athos are rustic and beautiful, inspired by the area’s Mediterranean influences.
Guests start out the day with specialties from a local patisserie such as freshly baked croissants and pastries, along with fruit, yogurt, and cereals. Luncheon showcases bountiful salads of market fresh vegetables, often served with a rich quiche made with locally produced cheese.
Four course dinners are proudly presented by the onboard Chef, featuring locally-grown ingredients and seasonal produce, paired with red and white wine from nearby vineyards for an epicurean exploration of the region’s signature flavors.
During the cruise, lucky passengers will join the locals at a produce market to shop the colorful displays of produce, flowers, and cheeses. Onshore tastings of both wine and olive oil, another regional specialty, round out the gourmet indulgences on the Athos.
The Canal du Midi is especially known for its delicious mussels, which are a favorite of the Athos crew! Luckily for the Barge Lady blog, the Athos has generously shared an original (and doable!) recipe from its wonderful mussel pot.
Enjoy a taste of cruising on the Canal du Midi, right in your home!
Athos’ Favorite Mussels in White Wine
1 clove of garlic
A couple of pinches of dried herbs
Fresh herbs to taste: basil, parsley, and chives
1 bottle white wine
- Clean mussels to perfection: in addition to de-bearding (pulling the green bit of seaweed off the foot), scrape all the small cockles stuck to the exterior of the shells. Once this is done, even go so far as “purging” them in loads of fresh water in your sink for a half hour once you’ve cleaned the rubbish off the exterior of the shells. The cleaner the mussels, the more fresh-tasting the final result. This is time-consuming but makes the difference between mediocre and fabulous mussels…
- Use a sufficiently large pot. The secret to cooking mussels to perfection (once they’re clean!!) is to expose them equally to the steam of the white wine / garlic / shallots / herbs to make them open and infuse them with wine/herb flavors. Go large on the circumference of the pot so that you can turn the mussels over easily and expose them equally to the heat on the bottom of the pot.
- Sautee finely chopped shallots and crushed garlic in olive oil, add dried herbs and cook until translucent. Add approximately 3/4 a bottle of wine and allow to boil and reduce to half (the remaining 1/4 bottle is for the chef…).
- Add the cleaned mussels and cover with a lid. Turn the mussels over with a slotted spoon every minute or two and make sure that as the ones on the bottom begin to open, they’re turned to the top of the pot with the less-cooked ones being forced to the bottom. Shouldn’t take longer than 8 minutes until the majority of the mussels are cooked. Don’t overcook (shrivel the mussels) or they’ll go rubbery in texture. Best-cooked point will be when the majority of the mussels are open and have been turned every minute or two and the lid put back on to keep the steam in.
- Finish with handfuls of fresh herbs: basil, parsley, chives really reflect Southern French traditions and flavors, and we like to throw a few de-seeded chopped tomatoes onto the top for colour and acidity! Serve in large bowls and soak up the juices with crusty bread.